TEN IDEAS: Add a Second Track to High School Education

Last week, I told you about my radical idea to scrap the current education-funding mechanism (property taxes) and replace it gradually with consumption taxes. This week, I’m going to explore an even more radical idea: Adding a second track for high school students.

First, the “Why” – As many as 11% of Ohio families with a full-time worker are living in poverty. Meanwhile, there are thousands of middle-class jobs available for people with vocational skills, such as welding, computer coding, and the trades. If that 11% of families had a breadwinner with a marketable skill, that family would see its income double. Meanwhile, the skills gap in America is a major problem for industry. Ohio’s employers cannot find enough employees who can work a machine or engage in a trade, and it contributes to the nation’s trade deficit.

Second, the “Who” – Some students are not cut out for success in college. It’s a hard truth for parents, so we ignore it. That ignorance is why our current education system is designed to get as many kids to college as we can. We do a good job for “A” and “B” students, but don’t focus on getting “C” and other students into good careers. A second track is necessary for the success of kids who aren’t “book smart.”

Third, the “What” – I want to create a dual-education system that mimics Germany’s. A high-school student will have the option to enter into an apprenticeship in high school, where book learning will continue while a student begins receiving pay and real-life job training. Students will get skills training, will avoid $100,000 in college debt, and will have a natural suitor for a job that will pay $60,000-$90,000. The employers will get a pipeline of well-trained workforce that they currently need. By implementing a similar system, Germany has developed a trade surplus and slashed youth unemployment.

Fourth, the “How” – There is a great appetite for focusing on vocational training, but progress has been incremental and inadequate. By creating a distinct “second track,” we will give every student an option of how to proceed. For a borderline college student, there will be a second option that is truly enticing. And it’s not a question of “College, yes or no?” It’s a question of “College, now or later?”

Last, the “When” – Now! We can’t allow any more classes of graduates to pass by before we give our kids an additional path to success.